LEE, Mass. -- After scoring 20 points, grabbing 22 rebounds and blocking three shots in a 62-47 win over Wahconah on Saturday, Lee High senior Ben Harding said the victory could be a turning point in the Wildcats’ season.
The turning point of the game? That came from Harding’s classmate Myles Whitney-Nason.
Lee had a 16-14 lead early in the second quarter when Whitney-Nason got a steal at midcourt out of the Wildcats’ press, gained control at the top of the key, took a dribble and went up for a two-handed slam.
The dunk ignited the crowd and the ‘Cats, who went on an 8-0 run to lead by 10 and never looked back.
“It got us fired up, and I think it took the gas out of them, too,” Lee coach Jason Bliss said of the dunk. “It’s just one of those things in high school basketball where it rarely happens, and it gets everyone more hyped up and juiced up and ready to go.”
Harding drove the lane on back-to-back possessions to make it 22-14, and J.J. Jimenez hit a pair of foul shots with 2 minutes, 47 seconds on the clock to give Lee its first double-digit advantage.
Jimenez was back on the foul line a minute and a half later, and he made both to push the lead back to 10 at 27-17. Harding closed the first half with a conventional three-point play after getting fouled in the post.
Whitney-Nason did most of his offensive damage with the other kind of 3-pointer, connecting four times from behind the arc on the way to tying for game-high honors with 21 points.
Harding’s lone 3 came in Lee’s’ second 8-0 run of the game. After Wahconah (3-2) scored the first four points of the third quarter to get within nine, Harding scored of an Jimenez steal to push the margin back to 32-21 and start an 8-0 spurt to give the hosts a 17-point lead.
Wahconah never got within 10 points of the Wildcats the rest of the way. Every time the visitors appeared on the verge getting some momentum, Lee had an answer.
Early in the fourth, Kevin Huban (game-high 21) scored four straight for Wahconah to make it 48-36.
But Whitney-Nason drove the baseline for a bucket on Lee’s ensuing possession. And after another in a string of turnovers out of the press led to a Harding putback, the Wildcats were back up by 16, 52-36, with five minutes left.
Bliss said the Wildcats have been working on their half-court pressure, and it paid off in a big way on Saturday.
“I actually had my old basketball coach Pete Cinella come down over Christmas break,” Bliss said. “He showed me a couple of different things we can do with that. He really helped me out a lot implementing that.
“We’ve been running it here or there in spurts, but we haven’t run a complete game of it like we did tonight, and it worked really well for us.”
Wahconah, which had not played since Dec. 28 before Saturday, will look to bounce back on Tuesday at Brattleboro, Vt.
Lee (3-3) goes to Mount Everett on Monday with a two-game winning streak and a lot of confidence.
“We had really high expectations coming into the season,” Harding said. “We started the season slower than we wanted to. This win really shows the kind of team we can be and the kind of team we’re going to be for the rest of the season.
“This is definitely, I think, a turning point for our season, and we’re going to make something big out of it.”